Arizona – the new Rhode Island?
posted at 8:31 pm on July 7, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
According to the Obama administration’s lawsuit against the state of Arizona, their new law requiring police officers to investigate immigration status for those already in some form of detention violates their jurisdiction, which is what the argument of pre-emption means. Barack Obama and Eric Holder want the courts to rule that only the federal writ runs in Arizona on immigration-law enforcement. Apparently, though, the federal writ doesn’t run in Rhode Island, where law enforcement has been doing for years exactly what the Arizona law Obama opposes mandates — without a peep from the DoJ:
But in Rhode Island, illegal immigrants face a far greater penalty: deportation.
“There are police chiefs throughout New England who hide from the issue . . . and I’m not hiding from it,’’ said Colonel Brendan P. Doherty, the towering commander of the Rhode Island State Police. “I would feel that I’m derelict in my duties to look the other way.’’
From Woonsocket to Westerly, the troopers patrolling the nation’s smallest state are reporting all illegal immigrants they encounter, even on routine stops such as speeding, to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE.
Well, that’s different from what Arizona is doing because, well, um … Arizona’s racist, or something. In fact, Rhode Island does exactly what Arizona belatedly decided to do, which is to get serious about immigration control and enforcing the law. The only difference is that Rhode Island began doing it before Barack Obama needed a distraction from a hugely unpopular ObamaCare bill and thought a fight over immigration would bolster Democrats in the midterms.
In fact, Rhode Island didn’t bother passing a law, but instead relied on an executive order:
In 2008, Governor Donald L. Carcieri, a Republican, issued an executive order mandating immigration checks on all new state workers and ordering State Police to assist federal immigration officials.
Sitting in his office in an old farmhouse off a country highway, Doherty said the State Police had collaborated with federal immigration officials before, but the relationship has become more formal in recent years. In 2007, he said, he trained all state troopers in how to deal with noncitizens because of widespread confusion and because Congress did not resolve the issue of illegal immigration. Troopers learned to notify consulates when noncitizens are arrested, how to recognize different forms of identification, and how to deal with different cultures.
In 2009, Doherty took it a step further and enrolled in the 287(g) program, which designated four troopers as immigration task force agents to assist in investigating drug and human trafficking and other crimes.
They also help regular troopers report illegal immigrants to ICE. Troopers say the issue typically comes up during criminal investigations or when motorists don’t have driver’s licenses, and police need to verify their identities with the center in Vermont.
Heck, an executive order seems even more susceptible to a legal challenge than a law passed by the legislature. Why isn’t the DoJ suing Rhode Island to stop doing what Arizona proposes to do?
William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection notes the irony in the attacks by Democrats on Arizona in the context of deep-blue Rhode Island:
This is too rich. Who would have thought that my home state, the state of Sheldon Whitehouse, is “racist” by the definition of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party?
I can’t wait for Whitehouse to give a speech on the floor of the Senate associating the Rhode Island State Police with the “fanatics, the people running around in right-wing militia and Aryan support groups.” After all, if racists oppose illegal immigration, then everyone who opposes illegal immigration must be a racist.
Or perhaps Whitehouse can simply explain how we managed to drop Rhode Island from the United States — or ask whether the Department of Justice and the Obama administration are simply indulging a purely political exercise.